By Tess Frame, Contributor
Every January, we set resolutions to eat healthier, get fit, save more money, travel and live life more fully than we did the previous year. But if you’re jobless, keeping up with these goals is that much harder — between the lack of a daily schedule, the missing income and the often demotivating process of looking for employment, you might just end up couching it with a bag of chips while time passes you by.
If you’ve had trouble finding employment this year, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, you’ll be competing with many to finally get back into the workplace. Wanting a new job — even trying hard to secure one — just isn’t enough anymore. You need to set yourself apart from the pack of hungry applicants.
If you haven’t had any luck landing that dream job yet, there are likely some big reasons why. Here’s what you can do to find employment in 2015.
5 Reasons You Haven’t Been Hired
1. Your asking rate is too high.
Everyone wants the better end of the bargain — employers want the person with the widest range of skills who will accept the lowest paycheck, and employees want the highest paycheck they can get upfront. Finding a fair middle ground might feel like you’re getting less than what you deserve. Perhaps that’s why 39 percent of women and 54 percent of men ask for a higher salary when starting a new job, according to a recent Glamour magazine poll.
The skills you can offer to businesses are, no doubt, valuable. Just maybe not as valuable as you think. Overvaluing your services could be a fast way to take yourself out of the pool of applicants too early — or lose you the job after your interviews.
How to adjust:
Do some research. Compare rates to others in your field on sites like Glassdoor.com. Do they have extra qualifications and certifications? Do they work in a city with a similar economy? Have they established a name in their field? Have they occupied that position for several years? Consider these factors when deciding your asking rate. If you’re changing careers, you might be looking at an entry-level wage. If you’ve got good experience under your belt, make sure your resume reflects that before asking for a salary that does.
If you feel the going rate is too low for someone of your position and you’re willing to go jobless to prove that point, then by all means, counter the offer. But if you are truly motivated to find a job, you might want to accept the offer you do receive and work toward a raise.
2. Your resume is too broad.
So you worked at a deli in high school, did telemarketing in college and had a brief stint at your brother-in-law’s marketing firm. And maybe there are some gaps between jobs.
This resume simply isn’t appealing. While you likely learned useful skills at each position, your resume doesn’t tell a story — it doesn’t reflect that you’ve been working consistently toward finding a job like the one you’re currently applying to. Your resume is a lot like a first date: It has to make a great first impression and it has to make your date (the future employer) think you’ve got lots of qualities in common.
How to adjust:
Your resume should be aimed toward whatever field you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a management position, your resume should focus on the management skills you developed in each position. Instead of working at a deli, cold calling and marketing, you “supervised eight employees as shift manager in the food industry,” “developed sales and interaction skills,” and worked as the “project manager for large marketing campaigns.” Leave out any previous jobs that are totally irrelevant.
The caveat here, of course, is that you don’t want to make anything up or unfairly embellish your experiences — that will only backfire on you in the interview stage. But you should use actual work experiences to show how you’re qualified for the job you’re applying for.
3. Your social media presence sends the wrong message.
Nothing is as off-putting to a future employer as a juicy Google search. If an employer decides to check out your online presence and comes across pictures of hard partying, constant job changing, a bad attitude — really, anything that seems unprofessional, you’ll be nixed as a candidate.
“Why can’t my personal and professional lives stay separate?” you’re wondering. Well, because your behavior in your personal life often carries over into your professional life. If you stay out late drinking every night and your interviewer sees this on your Facebook page, he’ll assume you’ll be coming into the office late, hungover and grumpy. If you constantly complained about your last job on Twitter, an interviewer can only assume you’ll bring that negative attitude into a new workplace.
How to adjust:
Nip the problem in the bud and stop the behavior that makes potential employers not trust you. If that impedes on your lifestyle too much, stop documenting the behavior and posting it online. Perform a search on your online self. Purge any pictures that aren’t wholesome. Delete offensive posts. Tell your friends that you’re trying to get a job and ask them not to tag pictures of you unless they’d be proud to show them to an employer. And, of course, keep the privacy policies on all your social media airtight.
4. You’re perpetually late to interviews.
Unprofessional behavior outside of the office is one thing, but in the office, particularly in an interview for a job you’re trying to land, it’ll cost you big points. Showing up late to interviews gives the impression that you don’t have your priorities in order. If you really do have a legitimate reason for being tardy, explain as sincerely and briefly as possible; drawn out and sob-story excuses only waste more time.
“I’m very sorry for being late. I unexpectedly had to pick my daughter up from school,” or “I’m very sorry for being late. My car broke down.” Again, lying here can only hurt you in the long run. If you’re making up an excuse, it’s usually obvious. The interviewer will be more understanding of the honest reason than if you try to cover it up. You can always earn back lost points by impressing him with professional behavior later in the interview.
How to adjust:
Set alarms, make arrangements for your kids, make sure your spouse knows how important the interview is and plan for traffic, even if you know the route well. If you’re a few minutes late, apologize and explain, then move forward. If you’ll be more than 15 minutes late (it better be a good reason), call and ask the interviewer if he’d be willing to reschedule. It’s more professional than making him sit and wait.
5. Your job is no longer relevant.
Like travel agents and beeper salesmen, your services might have become outdated or, frankly, no longer needed. If you’re seeing fewer and fewer opportunities for someone in your field, maybe it’s time to consider that you are in the wrong profession.
How to adjust:
Take relevant skills from your old career and direct them toward the new one, the same way you would for a too-broad resume. If you’re an expert at a technology that is no longer on the cutting edge, say that you’re great with computers, well-versed in the old technology, a quick learner and willing to be trained on new systems.
But it can be more complicated than simply adjusting your resume. You’ll have to adjust or augment your skillset and get caught up on new technologies. Consider taking night classes and certification courses to acquire necessary skills. Let your interviewer know that you’re working hard to keep up with the industry.
Photo credit: kate hiscock